It’s not unheard of for foreigners to be detained overseas for mailing out or bringing in the same medicine they use at home. The ever-increasing number of seniors traveling abroad need to be aware of that possibility and what they can do to prevent it from happening to them.
Witness, for example, a recent news report about an American executive for Toyota who was arrested and detained in Japan for having her father mail her oxycodone pills. The narcotic painkiller is tightly controlled in Japan.
Where’s the story?
Overseas travel for seniors (age 60 and up) is on the rise, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Between 1993 and 2012 the percentage of retirees traveling abroad rose from 9.7 percent to 13 percent. And, while seniors represent just over 13 percent of the population, they consume 40 percent of the prescription drugs and over 35 percent of all over the counter drugs, according to the findings of a recent survey.
If you are taking medication and plan to travel overseas, here are some important tips.
Keep all your medications in your carry-on bag. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications.
If at all possible, keep prescription medications in the original prescription bottle. The medication label notes the prescribing physician, type of drug, dosage, etc., which will make it easier to confirm that the drugs are intended for you. If you use mail order to receive your drugs, your pill bottles may be prohibitively large.
If you cannot fit the original containers in your carry-on, the next best thing is to place them in another container and take with you the printed sheet that comes with a mail-order prescription.
Inform the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent as you enter the screening checkpoint area if you have medications (prescription medications, diabetic glucose treatments and over-the-counter medicinal products such as Tylenol, Pepto- Bismol and ointments) in liquid, gel or aerosol forms in containers greater than 3 ounces. Keep these items in their originally marked containers and point them out.
The TSA says it’s not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag, but you must tell the officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the start of the screening checkpoint process. These liquids may be subjected to additional screening that could include your being asked to open the container or having the liquid X-rayed.
In order to prevent contamination or damage to medication and associated supplies, you will be asked at the security checkpoint to display, handle and repack your own medication after inspection.
Ask your physicians to provide a letter stating why your medication is necessary. Be sure the name on your letter from your physician and the name on your medication bottle match the name on your passenger airline ticket.
Know what medication restrictions are enforced in the countries you plan to visit. Go to http://travel.state.gov and look for “Customs and Import Restrictions” to determine any restrictions on what you can bring into the countries you are visiting. In the case of the American Toyota executive relocating to Japan, the Toyota president acknowledged the company should have done more to help her relocation.
You can visit the consulate general website of the country you plan to visit to see a list of medication restrictions and other travel-related restrictions.
Contact TSA Cares if you have a question. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares toll-free helpline at (855) 787-2227 up to 72 hours before traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. A TSA Cares helpline representative is available during all TSA Contact Center hours.
Plan ahead. Given the consequences of the Toyota executive’s experience (she was detained for 20 days and later resigned from her position), this is critical. Planning ahead for a trip overseas can prevent security checkpoint and customs delays and can ensure you are not violating any local laws.